New Dogs coach aiming high

Southern Dogs coach Clive Daniels directs the action during his side’s warm-up game against...
Southern Dogs coach Clive Daniels directs the action during his side’s warm-up game against Southland in Dunedin on Saturday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Clive Daniels was making his way through security at the airport when the Otago Daily Times phoned.

It seemed appropriate, given the new Southern Dogs coach is commuting from Auckland for the role.

He touched down in Dunedin this weekend for a training camp with the Dogs and a pre-season game against Southland which his side won 6-0.

The Dogs also had a hit-out against an Otago team and put seven goals past them in 30 minutes of hockey.

Daniels will be back next weekend to polish off the team’s preparation ahead of its opening National Hockey League game against Canterbury on Sunday.

They would  have a two-hour session on Saturday evening, so although it was not an extended pre-season campaign by any means, it was  adequate, Daniels said.

The match against Southland was productive and a good opportunity for Daniels to further assess some of the players he was not so familiar with.

"We tried a few guys in positions and worked on some really good set pieces, so I was quite happy with that," he said.

"The game was at [noon] but we had a training camp before that, because I really wanted them to be fatigued before the game so we can simulate what happens during the tournament week."

The 48-year-old hails from South Africa but settled in Auckland 16 years ago. He was an elite level player  during the apartheid era, so  did not have an opportunity to play international hockey.

He started out as a striker but "as I got older I moved further back in the field and eventually finished off playing in the defence".

He joked he retired before he ended up at goalie.

His coaching record makes for impressive reading. He was co-coach of the Auckland side which won the NHL in 2012 and he was assistant coach in 2013 and 2014. Auckland won both those crowns, so that was three in a row for Daniels.

Helping Southern secure its first NHL title will be an enormous challenge. A spot in the top four is probably more realistic.

"We’ve got a very good group.

"But the four top players in the country [Blair Tarrant, Hugo Inglis, Kane Russell and Nick Ross] are not available and they are all from Southern.

"But I still think that the team will have a good shot at the tournament. The goal will be to make the top four and work from there.

"We have  a couple of young guys who will surprise people, so I’m quietly confident."

Daniels feels Southern’s strength will be in its defence. Veteran former Black Stick James Nation (41) is returning after a two-year break and he will instil some calm.

"If we can keep him running, that will be really good for us. He is actually really smart and that’s where it [the leadership] will come from."

The midfield looks talented but scoring goals could be a challenge, although Daniels was buoyed by the 13 goals the side scored in 90 minutes on Saturday.

"I don’t think we will have a problem. It is just the inexperience of some of the players and getting them to focus for the whole game and the whole tournament."

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